God & Church are Not Synonymous: Pt 1

I think it’s taken me near 10 years to realize, that despite the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago, most people assume church and God are synonymous. They are not.  They never have been.

It took going back through the memories of being inside the church system to realize I believed it once. It was never spoken out right, but it has always been implied.

When I started weaning away from the church system my brothers had really critical things to say to me over the smallest detail. Stupid things that have stuck with me like thorns under the skin since that time. But I think I get it now. I think they saw the way I acted at or towards church was synonymous in their mind to how I was acting or respecting (or lack of {in their mind}) towards God. Not even that  it was connected, but it was a directly linked together in a full embodiment. If I didn’t mark the sign-in sheet correctly I was mocking God, not the sign-in sheets.

I never realized that this side of Protestant Reformation that there was still such a direct correlation in the minds of the masses of church goers. I mean I know that’s how masses of pastor think. I know the people are trained to associate the two. However, I just didn’t realize how much that is the reality within the church system.

There has long been this thought that if someone leaves their local church building and gathering times, that they’ve walked out on God. For many this does happen, because there is no separation between them.

I can’t emphasize enough that God and church are not synonymous.

Sometimes it takes looking at history to realize, that something that holds a scared title isn’t always what it seems. For me, the most simplistic words that really spelled this out for me was when Jesus said: “If you were Abraham’s children then you would act like it.” (John 8:39)

God judges someone by their heart, what’s on the inside, the true character which we develop within ourselves, our true motives and intentions. God sees that clearly. If that’s how God judges us, is it any different for an institution or an assembly of people?

God knows that our true intentions and our heart cause for us to do all things that flow out of us. All of our actions. The way we perceive people comes from our heart and our inner being. I believe this is also true for any system, corporation, community, assembly.

Now in a matter of speaking, a system has no heart, no inner being. Therefore those who align themselves with any given system become the heart therein. Yet so often we trade our minds & hearts for a go-with-the-flow mob mentality. We create a system to unify and drive us to our intend goal, but often it’s not long before we sacrifice our own goals, our own drive for the sake (health and sustaining) of the system.

I see this is still the reality of something called church. I too was part of  that once.

This is the strange thing about “church”:
It starts by saying that you can have a personal relationship with God. But then the whole time is spent telling you how to interpret God, how to serve God, how to do these things through more solidly aligning yourself with the local “church” and its “ministries”.  This happens so much so, that for those who actually do learn to grow and interpret on their own, they do not become the prize pupils, but instead are consider the ones who need to be corrected, or even broken in.
My husband and I have heard multiple stories like this. We’ve both been in these situations. We know it happens everywhere. It is not an isolated event.

We also know this isn’t God. This isn’t how God works. This isn’t the relationship that God had in mind.

A healthy body works together. Period. A body with auto-immune disease attacks itself. This is not consider healthy or normal. This is considered to be something that is in need of cure and of treatments, as there is often no known cures for many auto-immune diseases. Maybe especially spiritual ones which go unidentified. 

This thing calling itself church attacks itself. Am I to believe that is the resemblance of the body of Christ?

500 years ago (and more) there was something that was calling itself The Church. It was taught that this was the one way to know God, to honor God, to get to heaven, to be safe in this life, to be a responsible admirable citizen of your country. The Church was the guardians to Truth, or so it was taught.

But there arose men and women who disagreed with this thing called The Church. They disagreed that this system was not doing what it said it was meant to do. They disagreed that this system was honestly, openly, freely leading people Truth and to God.
To them the cruelties of the opposing a well-established system were unleashed. There was no mercy for such trouble makers. We are not too far removed from this history.

As a matter of fact, we maybe standing in the middle of an era where history repeats itself. We maybe at a crux of guarding and regarding the sacred words and descriptions back unto their true intentions. System or no system, when a people want to know God and want to know truth, there is an unquenchable thirst for the authentic thing.

Yet we have seen in history that the artificial thing will defend it’s stolen/assumed throne. The price for truth is high. Very, very high. Yet for something so priceless, we’d be fools to settle for anything less than the whole truth.

We can no longer bow our necks and bear this a little further in history. We cannot continue to plow for a master who is not our God. We must consider who and what we are truly serving. What do we truly fear? Whom do we truly want to serve? Are we interested in God? Or are we interested in our own rewards and security?

God and church are not synonymous. They never have been.

But woe to you … For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
– Matthew 23:13

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Sitting With The Silent God

There I was well adjust to my thirties…far from high school, and yet…feeling exactly like I was in middle school again. In the middle of the camp dining room, a room full of adults, just moments ago talking to friends, but the dinner bell rang (so to speak) and everyone literally turned away from where I was sitting to sit with someone else.  It was just my husband and I sitting in the middle of the room…alone.

We both felt the sudden turn. What happened? We looked at one another. That was odd. We were just talking with people, and now that it was lunch time, everyone wanted someone else to talk to? No one else came to sit with us. It was too coincidental. Was God portraying something with our lives?

It was fine. My husband was still there. We had each other. I was fine with that. …And then… my husband decided he need to take a walk. I didn’t know it then, but he told me later that the pressure and the obviousness of the situation was too much for him. He felt it too.

So there I was. A living monument in the middle of the lunch room, and no one saw me. No one ate with me. I tried to calmly tell myself not to shove my tiny meal down and runoff like an awkward middle-schooler. I could do this. I could deal with sitting alone in the middle of the room where two minutes ago we had friends to talk to and now… suddenly…nothing. I could stand tall, or rather, sit like a normal person. No problem.

Quietly I was talking to God. It was too coincidental to miss. “What happening here, God? No one’s sitting with us? What is this?
And then to hear in my spirit, “I know. How do you think I feel?
It was heart-breaking. I continued to calmly eat my food and sit there ever-so politely, while fighting tears from these impactful words of God. Then came the unforgettable words: “At least you sit with me when I’m silent.

My heart broke. The Silent God, of course!

I finished part of my tiny meal, and threw the rest out. It was too much to ingest. I looked around the room more than once, and I didn’t catch any eye, not once. I was there in the middle of it all, and no one saw me. But to think…that I might have merely been a symbol of a God whom they didn’t want to endure, that…that was crushing.

Some months ago, I had posted about how I was currently learning about the Silent God (a side of God we don’t tend to like or believe in), and it was impacting then…but this! Hearing this: “At least you sit with me when I’m silent.”  was devastating… devastatingly beautiful. In that moment of hearing those words, I couldn’t believe that other people would miss this. I couldn’t believe that I was privy to hear the words and heart from the Silent God.
It was beautiful. It was honest. It was straight from a broken heart.
It was one of those moments that best friends share together.

I remember when I was kid, I always wanted my friends to be the kind of people who could sit with me, even if I was having a silent day or silent meal. Because best friends share stories, conversations, and share their hearts & lives even if words aren’t being spoken between them. Even in silence, the best of friends are still connected.

Yet we live in culture that promotes silence as being awkward. Silence in the ruin-er of moods. Silence is the killer of connection. Silence…silence isn’t as bad as we make it out to be. Not always.

I haven’t recovered.
I haven’t gotten over a God who would say to me, “At least you sit with me when I’m silent.
I haven’t stopped tearing up every time I think of it.

How close do you have to be to share a broken heart with someone? To feel their pain as they express it. To cry when they cry. To sit with them in that time and not try to change it, but just to share in it?
How quiet do we have to still ourselves before God shares his broken heart with us?

One of my favorite Bible verses say, “He who is faithful with little, will be faithful with much. And he who is dishonest with little, will be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10)
God is seeking those who are faithful with little. The problem is, we have heard so much from a culture that says God wants to give us much …and that entices us.

The problem is we live in culture were dating is the same thing as having sex together. We live in culture where you can watch movies instantly and any part of the movie only takes two clicks to get to it or maybe just a spoken word (long gone are VHS and cassettes!). We live in culture where my husband’s coworkers ask him where he got his lunch, and they’re surprised when he frequently says we made it at home. We live in culture where we play little computer games during our dead time, but then we pay real money for unreal power-ups & instant-builds (and so on) in said game.

We live in culture that wants a form of greatness, but we want it now, and we’re willing to sacrifice some of our greatness in order to gain some instant-ness. We want to skip ahead to our favorite parts.

The problem is we apply this mentality to our spiritual lives, because it’s our everyday mindset. We don’t have time for menial task. The reality is relationships (including spirituality) are built on things that might otherwise be considered menial. Have we forgotten that in our modern world?

We need to practice being faithful with little in our everyday lives. Everyday we have choices to make. Just for today will we pick something that guides to healthier or more holistic living? Maybe tomorrow we fail. Maybe yesterday didn’t work out. But today? Today we could choose to be faithful with little. Today we could build a menial piece in our relationships. Today we could be a little more honest with ourselves.  Today could be great, or it could be nothing of consequence. And that’s okay. It’s only a little thing.

When greatness does come we will not know it, unless we are faithful in the little things.

It maybe a long, long wait, but… don’t be afraid of a Silent God.
Unimaginably beautiful awaits those who persevere faithfully.

Self-Hatred: A Profile Picture Story

Have you seen those post on social media where it instructs you to post your first profile picture and your latest one side by side? A sort of comparison. A sort of looking back on your journey.  Yet how can you choose your first ever and latest one and not see all the ones in the middle? And how does anyone look at a photo they’re in and not remember that moment or how it feels or the stories one was attempting to convey at that point?
At least for me, this is some of what happens.

I know that my pictures say one thing to people, and that I see another thing. In my profile picture journey, I see someone who has learned, and yet is still learning not to hate this face. Learning to be comfortable in ones own skin, and learning not to hate oneself.
Too honest?

No. Not too honest. If only we could all be something close to this volume of honesty with ourselves. For we have all been on a long journey throughout the days, week, years of our lives. We posted words, pictures, videos, and essentially hints to other people …but did anybody see it? Have we seen it ourselves?

We have seen our own flaws. We have ignored our own wounds. We have stoned our hearts towards others on an occasion. We have been broken, transformed, affected by still others on different, rare, occasions. We have morphed into whom we are today.
Did we notice?

I like to take an account of my life once every so often. I like to ask myself where I am, where I want to go, if I’ve missed anything, if there are things I need to take care of now, if there are things I can’t yet deal with. Essentially, I like to run a systems check. Sometimes all it can do is make me aware of errors that I do have, whether or not I can readjust them at this time or not.

Because I don’t want to make it another age in life, and say to myself, how did I get here? I want to be aware of the journey that takes place along the way. Sometimes hindsight does give a fuller explanation, but I don’t want to miss this just because I can’t yet understand.
If it hurts, I’m still here to feel it. I don’t just turn it off. …Though maybe I try sometimes.

All too often, I know that when I look back, I didn’t do great. I see a lot of wounds. They’re not all healed. They don’t all make sense. But I look at them anyways.  I treat them the best that I can for now, and I move forward.

On a good day, I fight lies that have incubated some of the wounds or infections therein. On a bad day, I think about the ugliness of the scars that will come of this even if it does heal. But one thing that has changed, I stopped needing to fix myself. I stopped needing to change. I stopped hating myself more than anyone else hated me so that they couldn’t hurt me worse than I’d done to myself. I stopped trying to control nonsensical judgements, expectations, and imagery …all of which changes so fast and so frequently that it left me in ruins every time.

I started finding the most solid foundational things I could possibly believe in. I went way down to the bare bone of my soul, and I just sat there for a while. It ached. I longed to be covered up, but I refused to put on these destructive presuppositions.  I learned to be in my own skin and just feel what that felt like.  and I learned there was a lot –a whole lot– of ache in there.

A recent reality check came when someone I knew as a teenager retired and I went to their party. I hadn’t been seen or heard of for a decade & half, but I decide to show up in order to honor this person. I was surprised to find everything the same. I was even more surprised to see that they assumed that I would be the same.
Was my mask that good, back then?

I ached and no one saw it. I hide and no one saw me. I survived and barely did more, and they thought I was living a fairy tale. No one saw the war I felt.
Thankfully I grew up, and I grew away. I got out and got healthy. I learned to live my skin, feel my own bones, breathe in and out, and to be here in this moment and to feel it and to deal with it.

I learned what it is to be me. Well…I’m still learning in some ways. This isn’t perfect, but I actually feel like I am here. I am see-able. Whether or not people turn aside to see, isn’t my problem. I am living. It’s okay if part of living is failing, because if I am still living I can still try again. …on a good day.

Ultimately I found, a lot of my self-hatred came from not actually knowing or being myself. So much of who I’ve been has been told to me. But now…now I’m telling my own story. I am living my own story. I’m finding I am part of something bigger than this tiny point in history.

I’m finding that self-hatred can even be fueled by to two different wisdoms colliding. A wisdom of well-oiled-machine world that tells you to comply to its systems, and a wisdom of a God-created-world that tells an engrossing story which we are part of.
Only part, but knowing my life is a piece of that story helps.

Once I choose to direct my steps according the God-created-world wisdom, a lot of things started to make sense for me. I started to see why I couldn’t be what people expected. I started to see why I hated who I was when I tried to comply. I found freedom to be imperfect, but at the same time strength to walk towards perfection without shame.

I found home in the midst of a journey. Because more than getting somewhere, becoming something, doing some great thing in time …more than those I found myself as part of something timeless. I found an identity in the midst of ancient story of a people.
And all those expectations that people have, they don’t depend on me to accomplish it for them, because I am only part of something so much grander than myself and my little life. I am one, and as one, I am part of many.

This is my beautiful life.

Music Without the Worship

It never fails to astonish me how true it is, that words come to an end at some point. Yet once in a while, when that point has come, there’s still something in the artistry of a song (a soulful song) that can still portray that further thought, emotion, or searching. It’s beautiful. It’s impactful. It’s a wonderful recovery of beauty.

But we don’t always treat songs and words in this way. Often -too often- we make them into nonsense & nothingness. Too often we need only to fill the silence. Too often we make them to lie for us.
But a good song, or a good old acoustic guitar can’t lie.

When I was a teenager I love-love-loved music. I loved acoustic guitars. I love that imperfect squeak the make when the guitarist slides their hands down the fret board quickly. I loved the way the guitar seemed to tell on the person who was playing it. It was as if the guitar could say to me “this guy is only trying to impress girls” or “this guy doesn’t notice you standing there, but we have a song to wade through.” It was beautiful.

I always claimed that I’d fall in love with the guitar way before any ol guy, and it’s because music portray something utterly different than mere words alone. There is still honesty in music. There is still artistry in music. …Maybe not all music, but the fact that it’s still there in our age is a wondrous thing indeed.

However…the other day (such notorious words, aren’t they?) on my  social media, I came across an article about why people don’t sing in church nowadays. Lipsync yes, sing no.
I knew I shouldn’t read the article. I knew I wouldn’t like it. I told myself not to click on it. I passed it three times, but ultimately… I gave in, I clicked, and I fumed.

Wouldn’t you know it? Not one of those reason listed on there was “They don’t believe you”. That wasn’t even a conceptual idea to those who commented in the article. Every one of the suggestions was more petty than the previous. It was astonishingly pale and pathetic and shallow beyond comprehension.

Let me make this clear:
Music is still alive. Sing is still belted out. When it comes from the soul, it is un-retainable. It will come out, wherever, however, whenever, as it pleases. Even when we don’t know the words, were into it. We feel it! We believe it. We are there.

Music hasn’t stopped reaching people.
There is yet to be every song written.
We haven’t even begun to get bored with sounds that come from ones core being.
Oh and…we ain’t done singing along yet. Believe me, if we don’t know the words, it won’t stop us. We can always hum.

So maybe…just maybe, it isn’t about the sound or style or loudness or harmonies. Because I’ve been to more than a few concerts, and none of which the crowd was silent or passively listening. No. Because when we hear our song, then we are compelled to belt it out. There’s no retaining the most honest feeling that one could feel.

Could it be that this is our problem? Honesty. Bare-soul music. Artistry with a reality behind it. Could be that the church system is so pop-culture that it’s turned itself solely to pop music and become the fluff that has cottoned the mouth and throats of its now listeners? Could be no one wants to waste more words on unrealities that we already suffer throughout the week? Could it be that we just don’t believe you any more?

Chant as long as you like, you worship music propagandist, but you’re just wasting breath. Turn up the speakers, get animated, fake happiness and a spirit of worship. I read it all from here. I can smell it from here. And believe me, I have checked my watch twenty times in last two lines, waiting for this nightmare lullaby to end. When this time is over, I’m going to get in my car, turn on my song, a belt out our lyrics.

If the “church” has no songs left to sing, then yeah…there’s always Dropkick Murphy. As profane as they are, I believe them. I feel it too. I’ve been there, and somehow they wrote my song.
There’s always my own attempts of made up on the spot as I do gardening or dishes songs.
There’s always the good ol’ classic Project 86 or Jackie Wilson.

I am not at a lack for songs to sing. I am not at a lack of music that makes me dance. I’m not at a lack of finding a soulful honest piece of artistry, even in our modern age.

Music is still being made. There are songs yet to be sung. There are masses still cramming towards that stage to sing-a-long with the band, and to sing their song. We are still excited to hear our song being played one more time. Our soul still listens for that song that we are compelled to sing along with. If you don’t know it, then there’s always silence. For it will come. It will be heard. It will break upon us.

Inspiration is far from finished. Let us try again.

Fools On Display

“Sometimes I think God has put us apostles at the very end of the line, like prisoners soon to be killed, put on display at the end of a victor’s parade, to be stared at by men and angels alike.”
– St Paul

Strangely, I get the impression this isn’t one of the first five things anyone thinks of when they think of the Christian Life or walking by faith. …and I wonder what it’s like to be that person who walks along without this weight. I wonder what it’s like to think of Christianity in terms of things done in or pertaining to a “church” building.
I imagine it’s terrible and boring.

1st Corinthians chapter 4 is very powerful in a humbling way. It’s like reading a story of how my ancestors got to America and got established into our modest life. It’s a reminder that we aren’t just trusting God for our day to day life, but we’re part of something greater. It’s a reminder that it isn’t just about what’s happening now, but our “now” is part of greater chorus which has been sung out in faith. We join those who have believed before us. We join those who believe now, and we join those who struggle to believe but keeping living for one more day, searching for truth…if there be any left in this world.

This is a challenge. This is a weight.

Later on, in 2nd Corinthians, Paul uses the phrase “eternal weight of glory”. A small phrase that has baffled many. What could it mean?
I think it means, when we get connected into the roots of our faith, and into the forefathers of faith, and we start wanting to be a part of their faith, knowing their God, and living that faith…then we’ve connected to something that eternal. Something that’s glorious. And there’s a weight to it all. “the eternal weight of glory”

When we think of the long lineage of history that has processed our stories and brought message of a living God down throughout history, we look small. Yet…in our “now” state of being, we feel so worthless, so insignificant, and sometimes so forgotten by God.  We feel like God puts us on display in the worst way. We feel foolish. We like stoning up our hearts, instead of opening them up. We feel like we have no faith at all. We feel insane. …but we keep going.

There is no alternative.  There is no following the system into a happily-ever-after. There is no daydreaming and one day  it’ll come true. …not without an attempt. Not without skidding through some failure, bristling through some doubt, drowning in stares of people who “admire” your “cute faith” but they sure don’t want to be you or live their own faith in the same “admirable” way.

Yet not everyone can.
Someone has to be at the base. Someone has to discover that old path that now seems overgrown and hidden. If it ever was here, then it’s still here. But my God, it isn’t easy to find, and to keep, and follow. …Yet if that’s all we had to do, it’d be easier than this. Yet we know, behind us will come those who are looking for this same path, and we need to put signs out for them. We need to clear some of the brush. But we need to make sure, it is the right path at the same time.

To say it’s hard is an inadequate understatement.

We are on display, and this display makes us seem like fools. We know. Yet we must. It’s not just for our sake anymore. When we enter into an ancient and eternal faith, then we become part of legacy. One that must be preserved. One that must be given to the next generation. And I just don’t have the faith to believe that our “church” systems are going to be the ones to pass on a living faith with a Living God, where even the words of God are still alive to us today.

To be eternal means there is no “Old Testament” God vs “New Testament” happy-go-lucky Jesus. Just one triune God working throughout all of history. Including now.

There is an eternal weight of glory, and it’s exactly what Jesus was talking about when he said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”. We preserve, because if we quit, we will never know what the saints of ol’ saw. We’ll never know why the cloud of witness is cheering us on. We preserve because there’s other children coming after us, and if we were kicked out of the church for seeking deeper truth in our perilous times, then what will happen to them?

This is why we are part of a faith that is on display before men and angels. Because God has a plan. …and that’s something that I want to be part of.  So here’s to one more try…

Not Superheroes, Just Friends

About a month and half ago, a friend of ours confessed he need to turn himself in for DUI. We prayed with him and have prayed for him since then.  A few weeks after that, another friend told us about his agonizing relapse, we listened, and he asked us to pray he’d get into detox. Maybe a month later, a different friend of ours found out his wife was cheating on him and planning to leave him. We were able to be with him that day, and spent the night keeping him company and being available.

We’re not miracle workers. We don’t change the world with our prayers. But we believe this is who we are meant to be. We believe this is what resurrection life looks like. We are thankful for those who will let us know when their life isn’t perfect and they need some support. Not everyone will tell us, not everyone will let us help or pray or sit with them and listen. Not everyone can trust, hope, or call out for help. We are thankful that God has made these friends strong enough to include us.

Somehow, I don’t think people imagine this as the good Christian life. We don’t evangelize (as its known to be), we don’t seal them with cliches, we don’t tell them everything will be okay. We just try to be available, try to pray, try to believe with them.
…and personally I can’t imagine much else to be the “Christian thing to do”.

We’ve never once stopped to think or accuse the devil. We’ve not yet become overwhelmed. Instead we thank God that these fine people have entrusted us with their tough situations. We thank God that we’ve been able to look into their faces, and hear it from them. We’ve thanked God that we are able to pray with/for them, and fully believe God will strength the weak hands and feeble knees. We know they need the prayers. We all do.

My husband and I are searching for a new place to live, and it’s frustrating. We haven’t found an open door, and we start to get a little put out with God. What does he want from us anyway? We’re trying! Then something happens… not to us but to whom we love …and we get quiet. We remember to be thankful. Although our current residence is limiting, and we’re ready to move forward, we are still a part of life. Life is not out there, somewhere, someday, instead…it is today. With all the bad and good and waiting, it still counts as life.

If I have to take a moment to remember this, to think about it, and to let the gratitude sink in, then I’m sure I’m not the only one.

We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, addictions and cheaters, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

And this is why we believe that we are already part of the resurrection life. In life we feel pain, we share heartbreak, we hope in unseen circumstances, we fall and get up again, we sorrow, we rejoice, we try. WE do this together. We include one another in these adventures -which at times seem to lead nowhere- and we pray. We include God.

When saints pray for a common hope, I believe it’s like going to a concert with a beloved band on stage. It feels like everyone is singing along, the crowd is pressing forward, strangers become friends, there is strength in numbers. There’s also that one weird person who has to yell something like “marry me” or “I love you” to one of the band members…but that’s easily ignore or laughed away.
In a concert like this, people are sweaty, smelly, sometimes pushy, close and pressing closer. Some yell the whole song, some sing, yet we all seem to lose our voice by the end of the night. And we love it! It’s like a sign of hardwork well accomplished. Not only did the band get on stage and perform, but we were all a part of the concert tonight…and it was beautiful.

If you’ve never been to a concert like that, you’re missing out. If you’ve never lived a faith like that, then you’re missing it…missing everything.

One or two of these friends (from the previously stated stories), said to us something along the lines of, “I don’t deserve friends like you” to which my husband perfectly replied, “Everyone deserves friends like us.”

We’re not superheroes. But in real life, we are friends to real people. We love our friends. We are proud of our friends.Our prayers for them pour out more regularly than prayers for ourselves. We are thankful for those who have allowed us to journey with them. We know these aren’t just bad times, but these are times where God is working.  We press on, carrying the burdens of our friends. Hoping. Rising…one more time. We will try. Together we will walk through today.

If this isn’t what faith is suppose to look like, then God help us. It’s the best we’ve got thus far.

Form vs Function

If we were people who we really interested in living like Jesus, what would that look like?

“Blessed is he who takes no offense on account of me.”

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’  But wisdom is proved right by all her children.

Luke 7:33-35

Our piety does not surrender us to the humbleness of allowing ourselves to look like “a glutton and a drunkard”  instead we tend to be people who find our Godliness in fasting and prayer. But it’s amazing who Jesus often identifies himself with.

Many of us like a religion which permits us to be individuals who can learn, perceive, and enjoy God in a way of “personal experience”.  We like to conquer our ideals of God, moral, and doctrine without taking into account those around us. We find the nicest Jesus jeans in our preferred style, and we slip them on. We look good, and we feel confident. What could be better?

Form vs Function.

Jesus seems to have this crazy idea that the Laws of God are about helping people come into fullness. We perceive the Laws of God as borders. Instead of growing into fullness, we grow into the Laws of God. …or in modern day Christianity we grow into the acceptable practices of our local congregation or denomination.

In fitness, there’s a debate about form vs function. Many people workout to achieve a specific form and to look a certain way….but other than looks, it holds no purpose, and often holds no commitment.
Other people have hobbies or jobs that are physically demanding, and therefore they workout to stay at the top of their game: function.
Idealistically, it’s better to take up a new hobby which is going to keep you moving and preforming and working towards a specific function. …But realistically, most of us just want the looks aspect.

Jesus seems to believe the Laws of God are for function…not a form.
Jesus seems to believe that there is freedom in living according to the heart of God.

…Yet…we look for our “spiritual growth” in things that appear pious. We look for spiritual fervor in outward dedications and declarations. We believe that the “straight and narrow” is a toll road. We do not think of setting our sight on the things of God to be a widening view. But why?

Who told us what spirituality and maturity look like? Have we based these examples on the examples of Christ? Do we base our character on the words of Christ? Or do we find it more permissible to follow the example of the religious people next to us? Afterall…who can be like Christ…right?

Maybe the truth is, you simply can’t master the things of God by way of “OR”. Maybe we weren’t meant to complete our spiritual based on our own individual experience of God. Maybe God created us to be woven together; those who fast & pray along with those who drink and eat well.

Maybe God created the quiet to interweave with the chatty and those who laugh nervously at silent moments. Maybe God created those with clean hands to embrace those who struggle with addictions. Maybe… maybe we learn from one another, and the stories that each of us have to tell. Maybe we find God when we listen to the stories of the brethren and allow our hearts to beat a little faster, a little more achingly, a little harder when we hear these stories.

Maybe we were meant to meet with God face to face, instead of just having one representative tell us how it’s all suppose to be. But maybe we didn’t understand this God is different. But maybe there’s time…